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Al Gharafa SC defender Bilal Mohammed Rajab (left) vies for the ball with Al Arabi SC midfielder Abdulaziz Abdulla Al Sulaiti during their Qatar Stars League match at Al Arabi Stadium yesterday. Pictures by: Kammutty VP
Doha: Al Arabi and Al Gharafa shared the spoils in an exciting 14th-round match of the Qatar Stars League here yesterday.
At the Grand Hamad Stadium here yesterday the two teams played a 1-1 draw.
Djibril Cisse, who moved to Qatar from PSG, scored his first goal for Al Gharafa but it wasn’t enough to secure full points for his team.
The Frenchman equalised for The Cheetahs after Arabi had taken a shock lead.
Cisse and Gharafa could have scored more in a game that came to life in the second half but Abdulaziz Bennij’s side held firm for a hard-fought point.
The result is a frustrating one for boss Alain Perrin, whose side could have moved into fourth spot with a win.
“I am not happy about the result. Our performance in the first half was not good enough. We didn’t make the right decisions,” Perrin said.
“I was pleased with the way we came back and scored the equaliser but unfortunately we couldn’t take the chances we scored. I was happy with the performance of Nene and Djibril Cisse, That is encouraging for the future,” he added.
The first half of this game was a non-event as both sides struggled to get into their stride.
January signing Nene sent a great delivery looping into the box but fellow new boy Djibril Cisse’s header was brilliantly touched over the post by Al Arabi keeper Masoud Zaraei . Mohamed Salem then gave Arabi the lead after 57 minutes with a brilliantly-worked team goal.
Gharafa didn’t know where they were watching the home side dance round them with a flurry of one-touch passes. The best was a perfectly-weighted through ball from Wanderly which Salem latched on to and dropped a shoulder before slamming into the back of the net.
Perrin’s side were stunned to find themselves a goal down but wasted no time trying to find a way back into the game.
Former PSG star Nene found Diego Tardelli with a cute pass into the box but the striker’s chip was easily held by Zeraei.
Gharafa then clawed their way back into game soon after when a brilliant flick by Nene released Cisse.
The QPR loan-star took his time before firing a cool shot into the bottom corner.
The pair combined again after 73 minutes, this time Cisse providing but Nene’s shot was saved. Cisse thought he had scored his second of the night on 76 minutes but after racing into the box his shot rebounded back off the bar. Gharafa could have won the game in the final minute when Nene showed great feet in the box to evade his marker.
Somehow he wriggled free but the shot was agonisingly wide.
Al Arabi coach Abdulaziz Bennij admitted he was delighted with a draw against a Gharafa side that had recently signed stars such as Nene and Cisse.
“I am happy with the performance because it came against a big team. “When we think about the performance then I know Gharafa could have won. If you asked me to take a point before the game, I would have taken it. For me this is a positive result. We had some players missing through injury but I thought the players who came in to replace them did very well,” Bennij said.
“When I took over we only had four points. Now we have 12. I have to respect my opponent if they are better than us. We have ambitions but we have to know our opponent,” he added.
In the other 14th-round matches yesterday, Al Kharaitiyat and Al Wakra were locked in a one-all draw, while Eljaish edged past bottom sitters Al Sailiya 2-1.
With yesterday draw, the sixth of the QSL season, Bernard Simondi’s team took their points tally to 12 points from 14 matches but continued to be in the tenth spot in the 12-team league.
Al Kharaitiyat’s French coach Simondi had said before the match they have tightened up the defense ahead of the 14th round match.
“This week we have focused on defence, attack and fitness,” Simondi said, on the eve of the match on Saturday.
Al Kharaitiyat had conceded 14 goals till the 13th round and the porous defense was a cause of concern for the Frenchman, but his boys stood up to the challenge to register a fighting draw at Al Khor Stadium.
Wakra, with yesterday’s draw moved to 16 points from 14 matches.
Meanwhile, Eljaish kept pace with the top three of Al Sadd, Lekhwiya and Al Rayyan by registering a win in their 14th round match. The Army men now have 25 points from 14 matches.
Al Sadd head the points table with 37 points followed by Lekhwiya (31) and Al Rayyan (26). On Saturday, Al Sadd kept their title hopes on course with a narrow 1-0 win over Umm Salal.
Elsewhere, Qatar Sports Club launched themselves back into the race for an Asian Champions League place with a brilliant 4-2 win over Al Khor.
In the other match on Saturday, Lekhwiya trounced Al Rayyan.